“Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me.” (Matt. 25:40)
The other day I went to pick up my dry cleaning. A slight, African-American woman came to the counter to help me. She had this kind face that disarmed my productive, check-it-off-the-list agenda. In the five minutes that she served me, we talked about special clothes that her aunt sewed for her, a story of a boy that was saved by his Apple Watch with its built-in heart rate monitor. She commented on how much she liked the shirt I was picking up. When I told her my 95-year-old Dad had given it to me, she exclaimed, “O praise God.”
She didn’t take up any extra time. She didn’t try to convert me or impart some prescribed message to me. She was simply attentive to the moment, a moment she repeated a hundred times each day with other customers. By her presence, she changed the whole tenor of my day.
We naturally ascribe worth to the events of each day. We see one meeting as critical and the next meeting as mundane. We check off tasks. We give some people our attention and others we gloss over. I wonder at times whether we get it all backwards. In God’s economy, are the “incidental” occurrences of the day what matters?
Each day we interact with people who work in retail stores, waiters and waitresses, people on the phone. We communicate with them. In our communication, we either let them know that they matter, or that we have more important things to attend to. Those incidental interactions tell more about our character and our faith than the achievements we accomplish. It’s easy to be “on” when the stakes are high. Every day we see people perform when the cameras are running, and people are watching. What happens when the lights go off is another matter.
Jesus seemed to make this very point as He elevated the widow who gave her last penny, who never knew that He was watching. He praised the woman who washed His feet with her hair, and the small child who wanted to sit in His lap. He said, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me.” (Matt. 25:40)
Who is “least” in our lives? For some, it is the “insignificant” people that sprinkle throughout our day. That may be people who serve us, fellow employees, or the person on the other end of the phone. For others, ironically, we treat the people we love the most like the least. Our patience wears thin at home. We trade our attention with the person in front of us for the person we are texting.
I imagine that one of the most important things that I can do to grow in character is to identify who is “least” in my world and begin to give them my best. This is not a simple task. It takes intentionality, energy, and focus. Yet, this is the fertile soil for growth. Like that sweet lady who helped me at the dry cleaners, our attention is a precious commodity. I pray that the “least” in my life will begin to get the most of my attention.